Going to university is considered a rite of passage by many. The time when young people fly the nest and begin the transition from childhood to adulthood, but do you really have to go to university?
Well, let’s be up front about this. If you intend to be a doctor or a teacher or to develop a lifelong career as a researcher in academia then yes, you do – but then you are probably not reading this because you are already set on a career pathway.
What about if you want to be a civil engineer, a chartered surveyor, a retail manager, a broadcast engineer or have any of the other careers that exist? Is getting a degree full time at university necessary or even helpful? Or are you going to spend three years getting yourself in debt and see no real benefits either to your career or to your finances?
For many young people, this sadly seems to be the case. We speak to lots of young people who have completed their degrees, some of which have gained first class honours and now, in their mid-twenties they are living with their parents, broke and working a job that has nothing to do with either their degree or their career aspirations from school time.
What else can you do, other than going to uni?
- School leaver programme
- Full-time job at entry-level
- Full or part time job and professional qualifications completed in your own time or with the support of your employer
University is absolutely the right choice for many young people and for a variety of reasons. No one wants to take that choice away for anyone but it’s important that both students and their parents understand that there are other options and that alternatives are sometimes a better choice for many people.
I think that we have travelled through a period of university worship, where getting in to university is the sole focus of years 12 and 13 for students, teachers and parents alike. Attending university has been seen as a status symbol, a way of passing judgement on young people – are you good enough to go to uni? Well, thankfully, I think that we are emerging from this phase and waking up to the reality, not that full time university study is in itself a bad thing, but that it is not the right route into a successful career for everyone and it’s nothing to do with how clever you are or how academic.
Good apprenticeship programmes, full time employment straight from school and school leaver programmes all represent demanding choices and if you’re a ‘grade A student’, guess what? – they are a viable choice for you too! It’s up to you how you kick-start your career – so pick the route that’s right for you and remember that no, you don’t have to go to university.